With Cable set to make his big-screen debut in “Deadpool 2,” the question on the minds of comic book fans everywhere is “How in the world are filmmakers going to make Cable’s history make sense?” He’s perhaps the most famous example of a comic book character whose past was decided by committee, and not just by committee, but by committee as they went along, so something that might have been true at one point was no longer true later. The Cable we got, for instance, was definitely not the Cable that Rob Liefeld was setting up in 1991. With that in mind, we’ll try to provide you the simplest description of Cable’s chronological comic book history that we can.
Our story begins, oddly enough, with the seeming death of Jean Grey in “X-Men” #137, the conclusion of “Dark Phoenix Saga,” by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin. A distraught Cyclops (Scott Summers) eventually met and soon married a pilot named Madelyne Pryor, who looked just like Jean Grey (as everyone knows, the best sign that you are over your dead girlfriend is to marry her identical twin).
In “Uncanny X-Men” #201, Madelyne Pryor gave birth to their son, Nathan Christopher Summers …
You might notice that Cyclops doesn’t look particularly happy there, and that’s because Magneto had just been named headmaster of Xavier’s School, and Scott has decided he will ditch his wife and newborn son to return to the X-Men to be their leader again. Instead, he loses a fight with Storm for the right to be the X-Men’s leader and begrudgingly goes back to Alaska with his new family. Soon after, however, Jean Grey turned out to be alive, so Cyclops left his wife and infant son to fly back to New York to see his resurrected ex (and then forms a new superhero team with her and their old friends in the original X-Men called X-Factor). Madelyne got sick of waiting for Cyclops, so she left with their son.
Eventually, Madelyne turned out to be a clone of Jean Grey created by Mister Sinister to make Cyclops fall in love with her and thus have him have a kid with her, so Sinister could have access to a baby with Summers and Grey DNA in it. The X-Men and X-Factor team up to defeat him and Madelyne dies and Scott ends up with his son. Things go normally enough for the next few years, with Scott raising his son while starting to date Jean now (as his pesky wife is out of the way).
Things took a turn for the worse when little baby Nathan is infected with a techno organic virus by Apocalypse. He is quickly dying in front of Cyclops’ eyes. Then a woman named Askani (it was more that she was part of a clan called Askani) appears from the future and says that if Cyclops gives his son to her, then she will be able to cure him using future technology. Cyclops reluctantly hands his son over to her in “X-Factor” #68 (by Whilce Portacio, Chris Claremont, Jim Lee and Art Thibert) …
X-Factor then merged back into the X-Men and Cyclops and Jean Grey then got married. While on their honeymoon, a member of the same Askani clan showed up (this member happened to be an alternate reality daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey, but let’s not get into that) and brought Cyclops and Jean Grey’s minds into the future into bodies waiting for them. They took on names that were similar to nicknames Cyclops and Jean Grey had, Slym and Redd (“Slim” for Cyclops and “Red” for Jean Grey). The intent was for Cyclops and Jean Grey to get a chance to raise what was basically their son (as Jean had received all of Madelyne’s memories when she died).
When Nathan had showed up in the future, the Askani cloned him in case they could not cure him. That clone was then kidnapped by Apocalypse, as he believed that this young boy would be the perfect vessel for him to inhabit in the future when his body eventually broke down after centuries of existence. As it turned out, though, they were able to halt the progress of the techno organic virus so that it only took over his arm and his eye (turning both of those into cybernetic body parts). So Cyclops and Jean Grey raised young Nathan and taught him how to use his powers and how to become a hero. Meanwhile, Apocalypse was turning the clone of Nathan into an evil kid. Eventually, the good guys were actually able to defeat and kill Apocalypse. However, soon after that, the Askani member died who had brought their minds into the future, so Cyclops and Jean Grey returned to their original bodies (12 years had passed in the future but only moments in the past).
Nathan continued to become a hero in the future, fighting against both the New Canaanites (the fascist rulers who had taken over after Apocalypse’s death) and the forces of the young clone, who was now calling himself Stryfe. Nathan grew up and married a fellow rebel fighter and adopted a son who also fought along their side. However, his wife was then killed in battle and his son was brainwashed and turned against him. Nathan decided to travel into the past, then, to fight Apocalypse before he could take over the world.
Nathan ended up in the past, but in the past before Apocalypse was even around for him to defeat. So he instead had to spend his time while waiting for Apocalypse, so the warrior decided to become a mercenary known as Cable, along side a mercenary group called the Wild Pack (later re-named the Six Pack).
However, as it turned out, the evil clone of Cable, Stryfe, had also went back in time and formed the Mutant Liberation Front. Similarly, Cable’s brainwashed son, Tyler, had also gone back in time and take on the identity of the mysterious Mister Tolliver and had secretly been the biggest employer of Cable’s Six Pack (and also the earliest employer for Deadpool). The Six Pack broke up when Cable had a chance to either kill Stryfe or complete a Six Pack mission. He took the former option (and failed, of course) and Tolliver sought revenge on the Six Pack for years because of that decision.
In “New Mutants” #87, Cable made his first official appearance, fighting against Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front …
He soon encountered the New Mutants (who had been off on their own after their headmaster, Magneto, seemed to return to villainy with the Hellfire Club). He recognized Cannonball, one of the New Mutants, as a member of an immortal group of mutants known as the Externals that Cable was familiar with from the future. Cable figured that one of his best bets for defeating Apocalypse in the future was to mold Cannonball and his friends into an elite fighting team, so he took control of the New Mutants and turned them into X-Force.
The big problem between Cable and Stryfe was that there was some confusion, even between the two of them, as to which one was the clone and which one was the original. This led to a crossover called “X-Cutioner’s Song,” where Stryfe kidnapped Cyclops and Jean Grey (his “parents”) and tried to kill Professor X. In the end, Stryfe was defeated (and Apocalypse was seemingly killed, which proved that Cable’s original mission turned out to be kind of pointless), but it seemed as though he might actually be their son. Luckily, soon afterwards, Sinister cleared things up and Cyclops, Jean Grey and Cable all met for the first time with the knowledge that they were, in fact, family.
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Soon afterwards, Cable’s brainwashed son, Tyler, was killed by Wolverine when Tyler decided that he was going to become the new heir to Apocalypse on Earth (during one of those times when it seemed like Apocalypse might actually be dead) and tried to give Wolverine his adamantium back. Wolverine declined the offer and instead killed him in a berserker rage. All of Cable’s family from the future were now dead.
With all of the information about his past now public knowledge, Cable from this point forward has pretty much been just as a normal superhero (which means that his comic career has had many twists and turns, but it at least has followed a fairly linear path like everyone else). He has joined the X-Men a few times and has formed a few different iterations of X-Force over the years, as well. His one notable departure from the norm came from when he took the baby known as Hope (the first mutant born after Scarlet Witch got rid of nearly all mutants on Earth through the use of her powers in “House of M”) into the future to protect her from Bishop, who believed that if he killed Hope, he would avert the horrible future that he came from (much like how Cable went into the past to try to kill Apocalypse earlier, but based on much less specific information). Cable raised Hope from an infant into her teen years before returning her to the present.
Cable is currently serving as part of the Rogue-led Uncanny Avengers, a mixture of mutant and non-mutant heroes.
Hopefully that all made sense! Now you, too, can wonder how this will all be simplified for “Deadpool 2”!